Local eye doctors provide eye services to patients in Mexico

Harry Watson of Fishkind and Bakewell examines patients in Mexico.

Courtesy Photo

Approximately 50 Volunteer Optometrists Serving Humanity (VOSH) Arizona volunteers, including 14 students from the Arizona College of Optometry in Glendale, recently completed the organization’s 13th mission to provide eye care in Hermosillo, Mexico.  

The primary mission of VOSH is to facilitate the provision and sustainability of vision care for people who cannot afford or obtain such care.  In the group were ophthalmologists, optometrists, opticians and technical support personnel, many of which are from the Tucson area.  

The clinic was established in a community center in one of Hermosillo’s poorer southern barrios.  Over four-clinic days, approximately 3,000 patients, ranging from preschoolers to the elderly, were registered and provided with much needed eye care services.

In conjunction with VOSH, two other organizations played a vital role in the mission.  Sedesson, the Mexican State of Sonora’s equivalent of the U.S. Department of Social and Health Services, establishes goals and implements programs to eradicate extreme poverty and aid individuals with problems such as eye health and vision care needs.  Their primary responsibility was for the acquisition, transportation and registration of patients.  

The Rotary Club of Hermosillo has been a longtime partner playing an indispensable role in making logistical arrangements, setting up the multiple work areas and providing translation when needed.  Additionally, the Sonoran Lions Club sponsored a concurrent clinic to treat our referred patients with ocular pathology.  Dr. Jeffrey Kay, a glaucoma specialist from Northwest Tucson, performed several sight-saving laser procedures at that clinic for referred patients with glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. 

 Each day, lines of patients hundreds deep, registered and entered the community center complex.  Ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians worked in close harmony with volunteers from the Tucson and Phoenix areas.  

Other volunteers came from Oregon, California and North Dakota.  Seven SaddleBrooke residents worked long hours triaging patients, recording visual acuities and sending them on to the appropriate stations for further care.

Following auto-refraction, patients were referred for only reading or sunglasses or were sent for evaluation at 10 stations by Doctors of Optometry. 

Several ophthalmologists, including Dr. Joseph M. Miller, Head of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Arizona Medical School, further evaluated medical conditions from patients that were referred.  

Because of the intense ultraviolet exposure and lack of ongoing care, volunteers saw hundreds of patients with cataracts, which were more severe than they generally encounter in their stateside practices.  

Miller and his UA team not only saw patients, but also looked into ways that residents in the ophthalmology department might be able to provide cataract surgery for the hundreds of patients with diminished eyesight.  

Those patients with prescription needs were sent for prescription eyewear.  VOSH collected and cataloged more than 6,000 pairs of donated used eyeglasses.   A specialized program then provides a list of all close matches to the patient’s prescription.  Skilled lens lab volunteers choose just the right one for each patient.  More than 1,600 prescription eyeglasses were dispensed to patients, many of which had never had a prescription to clear their vision.

VOSH is a grassroots organization that makes a difference in the quality of life for many poor or disadvantages people.  Despite the patients that they could not help, the thirteenth mission of VOSH Arizona was a resounding success.  If you would like to help, please consider donating used eyeglasses at the SaddleBrooke Drug, SaddleBrooke libraries or at any local collection site.

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